The bus rolled down the highway, filled with the voices of people chatting, singing and laughing. We were on our way to Tazumal, site of some pretty famous Mayan ruins, and the first stop on our road trip.
To best understand the atmosphere on the bus and the stories and photos from Tazumal and our other field trip destinations, it might be helpful to have a little background information. Five of us had traveled from our homes in the US to visit with our sister church community in El Salvador. As part of our partnership together, we have a scholarship program which enables kids, who may not otherwise be able to go to school, to study. There are 84 kids in the program, including 16 who are studying at the university level. The five travelers are sponsors for one or more students, and the plan for the visit included spending time with scholarship families in their homes, touring the different schools with the students as the guides, and going on field trips with students or parents.
The trip to Tazumal and Santa Ana was one of our field trips. We had moms, grandmas, youth, a few little ones, Francisco (coordinator of the scholarship program) and the the US contingent. One mom brought her elementary school children explaining, "they got permission to miss school today because this is a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity." It was the first time for almost everybody to go to Tazumal. Earlier in the week, we went with three moms to the National Anthropology Museum, and a group of students had taken us to the anthropology museum at the Technological University, so we were ready to see the site where so many of the ancient artifacts had been found.
We pulled into a small town named Chalchuapa, and a couple of blocks into town there it was: The Tazumal pyramid! I am not sure what I expected, but perhaps more of an open field with a volcano in the distance and the pyramid rising up. I guess it makes sense to find an archeological site in the midst of an old town -- this has been a place where people lived and worshiped for a long, long time.
We spilled out of the bus and went to the entrance window to pay our fees. The grandmas among us made sure that we got the senior citizen discount for them, and in we went. We started our tour in the museum, and everyone looked at the artifacts with great interest. There were signs in Spanish, but not a lot of background story. Those of us who could remember the legends told them as best we could, and at one point a caretaker explained the story of Xipe Totec.
After the museum, our college students gave us a tour of the pyramid, and insisted on taking lots of photos! We were all completely tourists - it was great! Half-way around our walk around the pyramid base, some of the ladies were already planning the Scholarship Family Trip Tourist Days for next year. Their goal: visit another amazing archeological site and...visit the playa!! (the beach).
Next stop: Santa Ana